by Finn O'Branagáin
Photo: Cameron Etchells

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by Finn O'Branagáin

Night. A house by the sea. A woman stands, naked, wet, panicking, some kind of secretion all over her. A young man tries to calm her down, hand her a towel. He’s gentle and respectful. She is a Selkie who’s lost her seal skin and is unable to return to the sea without it.

(Selkies are mythological creatures, common in stories from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and the surrounding Island cultures, who live primarily as seals, but at times can take off their seal skins and leave them on the rocks while they dance on lonely stretches of moonlit shores, or bask in the sun on outlying skerries. Without the skin, they are trapped in their human form.)

Séan promises to help her look for it. Rónnad ends up staying. A predator is slowly domesticated. They fall in love, but she is a little odd, howling at weddings, laughing at funerals - the townspeople are suspicious of her, and while he genuinely loves her, her oddness starts to grate on him. She still can’t find her seal skin. She is torn - stay and look for it, with the only human who understands her but is increasingly hostile, or take the risk of leaving and never returning to the sea. With just the two of them on stage in a small seaside house, their story is claustrophobic and tense.

As time passes, their relationship coils tighter; a net closing in on them. At their most comfortable, the skin is discovered - he has been hiding it the whole time. The predator instincts are reawakened. The myth is broken. An act of extreme violence. She takes the skin. She leaves and doesn’t look back.

Selkie is a provocative work exploring this mythological other who is lost in a relationship where she is both owned and prized, her identity repressed in an attempt at assimilation.

Selkie takes you for a swim in a whirlpool of love, cultural exploitation, and domestic oppression.

The script also deals with themes of cultural exploitation, domestic oppression, and the ‘civilising’ influence of an oppressor genuinely in love with the subject of their desire. A disconcerting insight into how we can unknowingly repress, exploit and manipulate those we genuinely care for, Selkie explores the complexity of untangling cultural relationships in a post-colonial landscape through the lens of a simple, poignant love story.

The exploration of cultural assimilation and civilisation will resonate with anyone who has felt like an outsider within the place they live.

The themes of ownership and constriction of intimate partners, loss of culture, the dehumanisation and attempted assimilation of ‘the other’ are themes that are important, urgent talking points in the news and the socially conscious conversation today.

Selkie is a dark, sometimes funny, feminist play about the tension between safety and freedom; between needing to be authentic and wanting to be safe.

Recommended for ages 15+

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